by Cori Hilsgen
Even though the number of participants was fewer this year, the All Saints Academy gym was once again filled with excited voices and bouncing balls as children waited to compete for trophies at the annual Knights of Columbus basketball free-throw championship Jan. 25.
Five children, ages 9 to 11, finished as champions at the local level, making them now eligible to compete at the district level. Participants in the event received certificates of participation, and winners in each age group also received trophies.
Winners who are eligible to compete at the district level include Kendra Johannes, 9, Abraham Berg-Arnold, 9, Teresa Ethen, 10, Andrew Moneypenny, 10, and Tommy Smith, 11.
The district competition will be held Feb. 15 at St. Francis Xavier School in Sartell.
This was the first year Johannes, daughter of Laura and Eric Johannes, participated in the competition. She said her cousin Ethen, daughter of Nancy and Jerry Ethen, convinced her the night before to try it this year. Johannes said she had fun and was glad she participated.
Johannes and Ethen were the only girls who competed. As Ethen competed, she set a three bounce-and-shoot rhythm to keep her momentum going. She said she enjoyed participating in the event and playing basketball for the Holdingford School District. Ethen’s older brother, Jon, also participated in the free-throw competition for four years beginning when he was 10 years old.
Berg-Arnold, son of Brenda and Mark Berg-Arnold; and Tyler Smith, 9, son of Tracy and Timothy Smith, tied in their age division. Berg-Arnold won the best of five tie-breaker shoot-offs.
“It was just fun to play,” Berg-Arnold said. “I think if you want to play basketball, this is a fun place to play. There are lots of really fun kids here.”
Berg-Arnold has helped his dad at the competition in past years, but this was his first year of competing.
Moneypenny, son of Jan and Randy Moneypenny, shot 15 out of 15 free-throws. This was his second year competing in the competition. His brother Reece, 11, also competed in the event. He shot 12 free-throws, but lost to Tommy Smith who made 13.
“I like to play basketball and I thought it would be fun if I could win again,” Andrew Moneypenny said.
J.P. Schmit, 11, son of Jo and Rick Schmit, participated in the competition and used a spin-and-shoot routine to get his momentum going before his free-throw shots.
Many children gladly volunteered to help shag balls as participants shot their free-throws.
Free-throw participants are allowed three practice shots and then can shoot 15 free-throw attempts in the contest. Successive rounds of five free throws per participant determine ties, until a winner emerges.
At the district level, participants make 25 free-throw attempts.
This is the 18th year Knights of Columbus member Mark Berg-Arnold has organized the event and awarded trophies and certificates.
Berg-Arnold started organizing the event when his oldest son was 10 years old. When he began, he said he would continue to try to do so as long as he has a child who is eligible to participate. His youngest son is now 7 years old. His son Simon Berg-Arnold was helping tabulate free-throw shots that participants made.
The event is hosted by the Father Werner Council 7057 of the Knights of Columbus and is open to boys and girls between the ages of 9-14.
Both Berg-Arnold and Grand Knight Rick Schmit said they would like to encourage more girls and children ages 12, 13 and 14 to participate next year.
In the past, the event was open to children ages 10 to 14, but 9-year-olds are now also eligible to participate.
Youth who win at the district level held in February go on to compete at the regional and state levels held in March. More than 120,000 children participated in more than 3,600 local competitions last year.